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Friday, July 04, 2014

Comic Cuts - 5 July 2014


With the Countdown to TV Action index now out I can finally think about what to do next. Normally I know what's likely to be the next book but I'm waiting on news of a possible project, so I'm a little up in the air at the moment. Hopefully I'll have some news shortly.

The Countdown book is doing OK. I processed all the advance orders during the week and everyone who has ordered a copy should see it arrive soon—hopefully by early next week. After only a few days, the book has already outsold the Boys' World index and is nipping at the heels of the Ranger book. It still has some way to go to catch up with some titles but I thought it might be fun to put together a chart of the Bear Alley Books' bestsellers Top Ten:

1 Lion: King of Picture Story Papers
2 Eagles Over the Western Front volume 1
3 Pages from History: Illustrated by C. L. Doughty
4 Hurricane & Champion
5 Eagles Over the Western Front volume 2
6 Eagles Over the Western Front volume 3
7 Ranger: The National Boys' Magazine
8 London is Stranger Than Fiction
9 Countdown to TV Action
10 Boys' World: Ticket to Adventure

I've said it before... "bestsellers" is a bit of a misnomer because we're talking tens of sales only rather than the hundreds. My turnover is still tiny and not enough to make a living from, but I'm rather proud that I've managed to get 21 books out in just over three years.

The latest issue of Jeff Hawke's Cosmos landed on the doormat earlier in the week. The latest issue, Volume 8 no.3 (Apr 2014, but released July), continues the run of stories that originally appeared under the name Lance McLane in the Scottish Daily Record, but which were syndicated under the original name of the character, Jeff Hawke. 

The latest volume contains five stories of mixed length and follows chronologically on from the previous two volumes. This issue's opening yarn, 'The Nursery' (1979-80), is straight out of the Star Trek handbook of storylines but 'The Dragon and S. T. George' (1980) is a lively and humorous tale and the final two stories are more substantial tales of artificial intelligence in 'Messiah' (1980) and a twist on the story of the Titanic in 'A Night Remembered' (1980).

As always, there are a handful of bonus features, including Duncan Lunan's ever-interesting background notes on stories and space note, features on The Right Stuff and aircraft, plus Andrew Darlington on Fireball XL5. It's another fantastic 88-page issue. Subscription rates are £26 for three issues here in the UK and £31/38/41 for overseas subscribers, payable in a variety of ways. You can find more details (and back issues) at the Jeff Hawke Club web page or by contacting william AT 

The latest issue of Spaceship Away has also just arrived, featuring a fabulous cover by Don Harley and an equally fabulous centrespread by the same artist recreating the look of Frank Hampson's earliest studio, The Bakehouse, in Southport. The centrepiece (rather than the centrespread) of the latest issue are two new Dan Dare stories: the ongoing 'Persecular Tales'—now up to episode 14—and a newcomer, 'Mercury Revenant'. Both strips (10 pages in total) are by Tim Booth who was a major discovery for Spaceship Away about eight years ago. He has been flying the Frank Hampson flag ever since and his latest serial gets off to a good start with the rediscovery of an old spaceship lost in the days of Eagle's earliest issues.

There are reprints of Jet Morgan from 1957 and a late Ron Turner strip from 1993 plus feature material by Joan Porter, Don Harley, Andrew Darlington and Alan Vince add to the fun. There's also a little bonus booklet for fans of the Mercurian language used in Hampson's Eagle tales. Any magazine that includes artwork by John M. Burns—who also comments on the stillborn 'Dan Dare & Son' comic strip—will always receive a thumbs up from me.

You can find out more about the magazine, buy back issues and subscribe to the latest issues at the Spaceship Away website.

And finally... a few random scans. I Bombed London by Karl Engel was sent to me by David Ainsworth with a note saying "I can't believe this is a real autobiography." He's right. It was published by Curtis Warren in 1954 and, supposedly translated from German by Siegfried Ritson. However, according to Dick Sharples it was written by a friend of his called Robin Tee, a Manchester-based advertising copy writer. I never did find anything more about Tee.

To round off this week's selection, I thought I'd dig out some more late Curtis Warren novels. They produced some really interesting titles towards the end. With gangster titles attracting the attention of vice squads around the country, Curtis produced quite a few historical novels alongside their usual output of westerns and science fiction; they were also one of the first paperback companies to produce original war novels.

As is turning out to be my usual default setting, I'm not sure what we'll be seeing on Bear Alley next week. I'm revamping an old cover gallery over the weekend. We haven't had a comic strip for some while, so I'll see if I can dig something out for later in the month.

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